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Methods: A longitudinal survey was conducted among second year medical students in 2010 at the college of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Gondar. All second year medical students (n=147) were included in the study where their attitudes were surveyed at three time points (one week prior to dissection session, a week after the initiation of dissection and eight weeks after the second survey). Three standardized and pretested questionnaires prepared in English were used to collected relevant data from the subjects.
Results: Out of the 147 students 85.7% were males. The subjects’ age ranged between 18 and 23 with a mean and standard deviation of 19.5±1 years. This study has revealed that among majority of the students fear and nausea have decreased while their interest and excitement has increased on subsequent exposure to dissection (P<0.05). About 75% of students considered the dissection room as slightly or highly stressful. Smell of the cadaver and eye irritation as a result of the chemicals in it were the major aspects identified as making the dissecting room stressful. The result also showed that almost all (99%) considered cadaver dissection had very important educational value for anatomy learning.
Conclusion: In the majority of the students fear and nausea had decreased while interest and excitement had increased on subsequent exposure to dissection. It also showed that chemical odour and eye irritations were the leading factors which create discomfort in the dissection room even though anatomical dissection by itself was not considered as a stressor. Thus, instructors are recommended to adequately prepare students mentally and emotionally before the commencement of the dissection session for an exciting and stress free anatomy learning though dissection.